Early season corn stand evaluation sets expectations for the year – Jon Erickson, Mycogen Seeds
A winter’s worth of planning is put into action as the final seed goes into the ground. As spring planting finishes up, anticipation rises for what is expected to be a high-quality, high-yielding corn silage crop. Now, you’re waiting to see the young plants emerge, manage them appropriately and hope for a good growing season to achieve your harvest goals.
After the plants emerge, how can you derive reasonable outlooks for the crop in the fall? Uniform emergence impacts plant populations, stand quality and, ultimately, crop performance. Walking fields to see if plants emerged uniformly or are evenly spaced can give an idea of the stand quality to expect at harvest. These factors can help you evaluate the early stages of corn development.
- Uniform emergence. Why is emergence, especially uniform emergence, important? It improves the number of yield-contributing (quality) plants in the field. Not only the number of plants, but also the number of quality plants affects yield and feed quality of the crop. Ideally, all plants emerge within 24 to 48 hours of each other. Late-emerging plants — generally smaller plants — have smaller ears, have reduced kernel set or do not develop ears at all. For silage, a reduction in stalk size and small ears means less tons of corn silage at harvest. Therefore, uniform stands of quality plants set the stage for consistent growth, pollination, and ear size for proven higher yield and better quality.
- Plant spacing. Ideally, the space between individual plants is equal. For example, on 30-inch rows with a population of 34,000 plants per acre (ppa), approximately 6.1 inches would be between neighboring plants within the row. In the field, ask yourself how the spacing looks. If you see wide gaps (skips) or plants growing on top of each other (doubles or triples), yield and quality will be impacted by poor plant spacing.
What is the financial impact from emergence and stand issues early in the season? Why is it important to have uniform emergence? Consider that losing one plant in 0.001 acres can mean up to 7 bushels of lost grain per acre, or 0.5 to 1 ton per acre of quality corn silage. Planting at 32,000 ppa and harvesting 28,000 ppa could lead to a silage ton loss of 2 to 4 tons per acre.
Think about the impact that tonnage has on milk production value. Uniform emergence and quality stands drive plant development for better yield and higher-quality feed. Increased tonnage provides additional neutral detergent fiber digestibility (NDFd) and more starch to the dairy producer. The more consistent the ear size, the better the starch analysis and the more consistent the feed. Producers will garner higher returns on their seed investments with uniform stands. Emergence and stand quality set the stage for success in growing high-quality silage for the dairy.